The City of Pines is frequently cold, but fortunately, never gets old
Ah, Baguio. It may be the country’s summer capital, but the chilly air and the rustic vibe rarely fails at retaining its unmistakable charm all year round. There’s something in this place that simply never gets old.
Here’s a quick guide for anyone – both first-timers and returnees – looking for an alternative to the madding urbanity, and tropical beaches that often mark the Philippines.
WHAT TO DO
Bury the bad vibes
In Camp John Hay, there’s a patch of canopied path that’s actually a cemetery. It’s not your usual cemetery, however. It’s the Lost Cemetery of Negativism. Decorated with tombstones engraved with witty names meant to represent an undesirable attitude or thought, the place was the brainchild of US Base Commander Major John Hightower, who served at Camp John Hay from 1979 to 1982. For the commander, soldiers should get rid of all negativity to become more productive. Take a stroll around this hill and make sure to leave the worries and pessimism of the past year behind.
Apart from the vibe cemetery, there’s plenty more to do in Camp John Hay. You can try extreme activities at the Treetop Adventure, enjoy a picnic, or visit the historical Bell House, as well as the Butterfly Sanctuary. The park is open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Be amongst brave men
Established on December 21, 1936 by virtue of the National Defense Act, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) is the breeding ground for future soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The academy is open to tourists, and it’s a good way to get a glimpse of life in the army.
One interesting area is The Long Gray Line – a slab of marble decorated with the emblems of every single batch that had graduated from the academy. There’s also a museum that features military paraphernalia, a replica of a cadet’s quarters, and war booties.
The PMA is located in Fort del Pilar. It accepts visitors as early as 7 a.m. and restricts access by 7 p.m. on regular days. For inquiries, contact its office at +6374 442-0102.
Have a little scare and culture
Baguio is famous for having a host of haunted places. There’s the Diplomat Hotel, the Teacher’s Camp, and of course, the Laperal White House. The last one, despite its frightful reputation, has now been transformed into a museum and currently holds the Ifugao Bamboo Carving Gallery—a joint project by the Philippine Bamboo Foundation, and the Tan Yan Kee Foundation.
While the indigenous artwork is already a treat, the spooky vibe does add to the experience.
Laperal White House is open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance fee as of writing is PhP50 per person.
Go on a stroll
You haven’t really been to Baguio if you haven’t visited the Botanical Garden. It’s a great place to relax and bond with loved ones as it is surrounded by beautiful bevies of pine and assorted trees. There’s also place for picnics as well as a walking trail that leads to a Japanese tunnel. Here, you can also don the Ifugao attire and have your picture taken with the locals.
Located east of downtown Baguio along Leonard Wood Road, the garden is open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance is free.
Take in the view
Baguio would not be Baguio without the beautiful scenery. So on your way there (or back), be sure to stop over at the Kennon Road view deck to catch a stunning view of Baguio’s mountainous landscape. You can also get a great view at Mines View Park, but brace yourself as you’ll most likely be competing with a throng of other visitors for a spot.
Aside from the view, you can also by souvenirs here. The Good Shepherd Convent – famous for its rich ube jam – is also just a 10-minute walk from the park.
Appreciate the local art scene
As if the marvelous scenery isn’t enough, the City of Pines also boasts a thriving local art scene. If you fancy yourself as an art connoisseur, don’t miss a chance to visit the masterpieces at the BenCab museum.
This place displays the artwork of local artist Benedicto Reyes Cabrera. Arguably the best-selling painter of his generation, the artist more popularly known as BenCab has been awarded National Artist for Visual Arts in 2006. Aside from his own works, the museum also holds exhibits featuring other local artists.
For a less modern take on art, head over to Tam-awan Village where indigenous art is wholeheartedly celebrated. From the traditional Cordilleran huts that can be rented out to the handmade souvenirs for sale, the place adds another dimension to the art scene. There’s also a museum here, as well as a café that serves amazing local coffee and snacks.
BenCab Museum is open on Tuesdays to Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. General admission is PhP120, PhP100 for students, and PhP80 for senior citizens and PWDs. Tam-awan Village, meanwhile, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. An entrance fee of PhP50 for adults, and PhP30 for students are collected.
Bring home a piece of culture
If you’re into native fabrics, the Easter Weaving Room is the place for you. There, one can watch weavers in action, doing the traditional weaving method practiced all over the Cordilleras. The resulting cloth has been transformed into articles of clothing, as well as bags that can be bought at the shop upstairs. Local handicrafts are also available.
Easter Weaving Room is located at No. 2, Easter Road, Guisad. It’s open on Mondays to Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
WHERE TO EAT
The chilly Baguio air is sure to get you in a mood for “feasting,” You gotta eat to stay warm in this weather. While there are countless dining options in the city, you should at least try the food over at Te Quiero Tapas Bar and Restaurant, which serves Mexican/Spanish dishes prepared using locally-sourced ingredients. The restaurant offers not just great food but the perfect ambience to relax after a long day of touring around Baguio.
The Paella Mixto (rice mixed with seafood) goes well with the Callos Madrilena (ox tripe and chorizo in tomato sauce). Throw in an ice cold beer and you’re all set.
Te Quiero is located at #5 Marcoville, Upper Session Road. It’s open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
WHERE TO STAY
After a fun day in Baguio, rest your head in one of Microtel Baguio’s chiropractor-approved mattresses. Check in here, and you’ll not only get a good night’s sleep, but you’ll also be at the center of all the happenings in the city. Its strategic location brings you within walking distance of the coolest hangout spots in Session Road, as well as the Burnham Park and the Baguio Cathedral. There’s also free-flowing coffee for guests! For added convenience, it’s literally just beside the Victory Liner Terminal.
Microtel Baguio is located at Upper Session Road. For inquiries and reservations, call +6374 619-3333 to 34, +6374 619-3342, or +63922 816-8436.
By CELINE REYES